Lucy did it to us again. Think of the Bills as Lucy in the Peanuts shows and all of us as Charlie Brown. Despite our history with Lucy, we still go running full blast to kick the football and Lucy does it again! She pulls the ball away and we go flying up in the air and slam down on the cement, flat on our back. The Bills 34-31 overtime defeat by Atlanta was just another in a way too long line of gut wrenching losses.
Sure, the Bills record was 4-7 but that decisive victory over the New York Jets breathed life back into all of us. Plus, the Bills were looking at a very favorable three game stretch coming out of the bye, facing teams that were a combined 7-26.
As Sunday plays out, you see the Bills getting the necessary help on the out of town scoreboard with Tennessee, Cleveland and the Jets all losing. The Jets lost to Miami but that was okay because the Bills still play Miami at Ralph Wilson Stadium and could sweep the season series. Then San Diego loses too so a Bills win would have left them in a group of 5-7 clubs(Jets, San Diego, Pittsburgh) all just one game out of the second wild card spot held by Baltimore at 6-6. Miami is also 6-6.
The Bills 6th game at the Rogers Center started well enough. When Buffalo grabbed a 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter I thought 'this is going to be easy' but then I felt the same way with an early lead in Cleveland. Even though the Bills blew leads of 14-0 and 17-7, and fell behind 24-17 they didn't fall apart. Instead they came back to not only tie the game but go back in front, setting up a drive that would once again make you wonder if the NFL has it in for the franchise.
Two critical penalties allowed the Falcons to tie the game and force overtime. First, there was an illegal contact called against Aaron Williams. Perhaps the officiating crew got the wrong number because replays showed Williams coming in contact with no one. But the bigger call was pass interference on Nickell Robey giving Atlanta first and goal at the one yard line. Granted I'm biased but I let that play go because both guys were fighting for position. Replays clearly showed Robey grabbing the collar of Harry Douglas' jersey but Douglas pushed off on Robey before the grab. To me, that call is made because an official sees it and thinks thats what pass interference looks like so I guess I have to throw the flag.
But the Bills overcome that and are in position for a second game winning drive by EJ Manuel inside the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. Until Stevie Johnson fumbles the ball. This I'm sure will bring out some serious Stevie hatred this week. No, I wouldn't cut him now and no, I wouldn't cut him in the off season and yes, I would still trust him to make a play if I need one. He has been and still is their best wide receiver and is very good at getting open so he will be involved in a number of critical plays in close games. Some will work out and some won't. The only thing I could criticize on that play is not putting two hands around the football after the catch, like a running back would on a carry when trying to hold on while his team is getting in position for a big field goal attempt.
But Lucy lines the ball up again and we figure she can't be that cruel, right? The BIlls get the ball to start overtime and Manuel completes a throw to Scott Chandler which will give the Bills the ball near midfield. But he too has the ball knocked out of his possession and you really have to wonder why the football gods could be so unkind to one fan base! At that point, it was a foregone conclusion and you started getting yourself to that dark place where you've been so many times over the years on an NFL Sunday.
By the way, lost in those fumbles is the fact that Manuel had moved the team in position to win. On the drive that ended with the Johnson fumble, the Bills had gone 46 yards on six plays in a little over a minute. Manuel connected with Chandler on a huge third and 10 conversion for a 23 yard gain.
But it all goes for naught as the Bills drop to 4-8, leaving us with another December where the Bills will play out the string and we'll hope that next year Lucy will let us actually kick the ball.